A new year is upon us! Do you have your New Year’s Resolutions figured out? What about your pets?
You and your pet may or may not have some New Year’s Resolutions already, so here’s some we recommend.
Just like people, different pets have different nutritional needs, but they all need a healthy balanced diet.
Cats can get dangerously fat just from eating the wrong kind of food. Now, I’m not saying that a low carb diet is for everyone, but the unnecessary fillers or carbohydrates like white rice, corn meal or wheat gluten found in most dry cat foods increase the chance that you cat will become obese.
Obesity is a problem for American people and pets. It can lead to all kinds of complications including diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. The World Health Organization defines obesity in humans as having a BMI greater than 30. If we were to use that same formula on our pets, we’d see that it only takes a few extra pounds for a pet to be classified as obese. For example, a 12 pound Yorkie is the same as an average female weighing 218 pounds.
Talk to your vet if you have questions about the nutrients and calories that your pet needs. Then measure their food every time (I like those measuring cups at the dollar store, you can keep the one you need in the bag and toss the rest). It’s an easy way to make sure they are getting the right amount of food.
Exercise Your Body and Your Mind
Dogs and people have a lot in common – big or small, young or old, they need exercise daily. A tired dog is a good dog. No, literally! Regular exercise can reduce some bad behaviors, especially those done out of boredom (just think of how well behaved your kids are when they’re asleep!)
Now, how much exercise they need will depend on age, breed, physical condition, etc. For example, herding dog breeds should get 90 minutes of intense exercise a day, where toy breeds and brachycephalic (smush-face) dog breeds need significantly less.
Note: Significantly less is not none. Since many toy breeds tend not to get any exercise, they are among the breeds most commonly diagnosed as obese. Just a few extra pounds can throw their small frames totally out of whack.
Cats tend to regulate their own exercise routines – spending hours plotting and planning to then run around the house at full speed (at 3 AM, naturally). Not to say that you cannot entice your kitty to be more active with some well-placed toys or the oh-so-tantalizing red dot of a laser pointer.
On top of physical exercise, pets need mental exercise – a good brain game can be almost as tiring as a long hike! Try introducing a new toy, taking a new route on your walk or teaching them a new trick.
Come to think of it, when was the last time you tried learning something new? Several studies now show that dogs can be powerful motivators to get people moving. So grab the leash and go!
What’s Up, Doc?
I recently read that almost half the country doesn’t go to the doctor every year.
OK people, just because you don’t feel sick, doesn’t mean you should skip your annual physical. The same is true for your pets. Although not fun, keeping up to date with recommended vaccinations and screenings is a fundamental part of good health.
A lot can change in a year. To add in some scary numbers, 1 in 3 Americans have high blood pressure – something pets can get too, though vets rarely check – but many do not even know it. And since Fluffy complains WAY less than you do, do them the favor of an annual checkup.
Annual visits to the doctor/veterinarian are a chance to update your personal medical records. Having up-to-date information can save time in the event of an emergency, preventing unnecessary testing and possible allergic reactions, and generally helping you and your pet receive the best level of care possible.
Pet stuff can overrun your house. From leashes and toys to medications and foods, one day you’re a house with a dog in it and the next your house is a dog house.
Breaking down your pet’s stuff into categories will help you take inventory. Here are some sample categories:
- Food & Treats: Store all the food and treats together in an air-tight container (use child-proof locks if you have to!)
- Medical Records: Keep all the important veterinary documents, vaccination reports, lab tests and x-rays together. An online pet health record can save space and protect the documents from damage. And since it’s accessible from anywhere, you always have them when you need it.
- Leashes and Accessories: Not all pets have loads of accessories, but if yours does, make sure they fit properly. If you’re holding on to old ones for sentimental reasons, maybe they deserve a special place away from the ones you use every day.
- Toys: Do they really need 17 tennis balls? (Don’t ask them, the answer is most definitely, YES!) But, try putting away duplicate toys and then rotating through them to keep that “New toy!” feeling alive.
Your pet is part of your family, so they should have their own organized spaces too.
Your pets are already into all the same things as you – naps, playtime, food, more naps – so it’s a given that they want to help the causes close to your heart. Some easy ways to give back include:
- Foster: Not a pet owner? Many animal shelters and rescues need loving homes to provide safe and temporary living arrangements for pets. Fostering is the perfect way to test the waters of pet ownership without the lifelong commitment, and maybe, your home will become theirs.
- Do a Charity Walk: Lots of charity walks are dog-friendly (and cat-stroller friendly for those of you who are so inclined). They don’t always advertise this, so a quick phone call to the organizers of a local 5K can make sure you can bring you best bud along. There are even a few dog-centric walks like Paws for a Cause (against cancer) and the Humane Society’s Walk for the Animals.
- Be Shameless About Donations: If you have a birthday or holiday coming up, take one of those aww-inducing, ridiculously cute photos of your pet and create an email or social media post with a link to your favorite charity that asks your loved ones to forgo gifts and think of the animals.
Whether the recipient of this goodwill is another animal or a human being in need of a hug, your cat or dog will feed off the positive vibes. Plus, when animals are around, we humans end up with lower stress levels and blood pressure, and a heightened sense of togetherness.